Thursday, December 18, 2008

July to December 2008

Talks, Walks and Interpretative Panels

During August we facilitated the design and erection of several interpretative bird panels around Carlingford and environs in collaboration with Greenore Port. We also had a poorly attended sea-watching outing to Clogherhead, though just as well because on that day, despite the fine weather, the birds did not cooperate!

In September we had our first talk of the Autumn season: Birds of America, given by Breffni Martin.
In October Damian Clarke from the Golden Eagle Trust returned to give a very well attended talk on Buzzards.
In November Oscar Merne gave a talk on his many trips to Africa. Later in the month we joined the Cavan Branch of Birdwatch Ireland for an outing along the Navvy Bank, the highlight of which was the flock of Twite at Soldiers Point.
During December we had two basic bird identification sessions with the Omeath Scouts Troop and on the 1st of that month we had our last talk of the year given by Anthony McGeehand from RSPB Northern Ireland. This talk was preceded by out second AGM.


The meeting started just after 7pm. Present were Derek Watters, (Treasurer), Gerry O'Neill (Secretary) and Members Peter Philips, Peter Rooney, and Breffni Martin (Chair). Sandra McKeever couldn't make it and Enda Flynn resigned due to work commitments. We resolved to investigate ways to improve the goose situation in the vicinity of Lurgangreen and to improve communication on activities within the group generally. The programme for nest year was also discussed. The meeting ended at 8pm in time for Anthony's talk.

Little Terns at Baltray

Members of the North Louth Branch volunteered for warden duty at Baltray beach during the nesting period in 2007 and 2008 and we covered the cost of insurance for the project. The cutting edge conservation effort, managed by the Louth Nature Trust, produced 40 odd successfully fledged Little Terns over the two years. Although Little Terns are not threatened globally, they are declining in Europe and Amber-listed by Birdwatch Ireland.

Sandra Mckeever, Chairperson of the Louth Nature Trust will give an illustrated talk on the project on the 5th January 2009 at the Spirit Store on Dundalk Docks at 8pm - entry is free and all are welcome!

Nest, Nestling and Juvenile Little Terns


Over the year we published several short articles in the local papers with the idea of getting people interested in birds and wildlife conservation in general. The first was on the disappearance of Peregrine Falcons from Slievenagolgh in the Cooley Mountains. This was followed with a piece on Barn Swallows and other hirundines, notably House Martins, who are particularly affected by changes housing and attitudes. Other initial pieces focused on the Song Thrushes practice of using stones to break snail shells and an episode of rescuing a brood of lost Shelduck ducklings.

Shelduck duckling

Then in August, normally a quiet month for birding before the migration storm of September and October, we got a vague but credible report of a woodpecker being seen in a garden in Dunleer. It didn't take long to figure out that this was probably not a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but more likely a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker, and as such suggested the possibility that Great Spotted Woodpeckers may be breeding in Ireland after an absence of at least several hundred years! To try to trigger more sightings we put this item in the paper. I got a few calls in the following month but nothing sure, then out of the blue came a call from someone with video footage, which sure enough turned out to be the real thing - except that it was an adult female! The presence of a female and juvenile bird in close proximity strongly suggests the possibility the birds were breeding, if confirmed this would be the first confirmed breeding in several hundred years!
Great Spotted Woodpecker at Dromin (Photo Gerry O'Neill)

Bird Race

Because 165 birds were seen by one well-known birder in Louth in 2007 (a good number for a small North-Eastern county), an informal race started up to see if the record could be beaten. As it turned out 2008 would prove to be an exceptional year for Louth birding. After a particularly good run in Spring with Lapland Bunting, Bewick's Swan and Glaucous Gull, the summer also proved exceptional, particularly for seabirds with Sooty Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Sabine's Gull and Little Auk off shore. Then after news of the Great Spotted Woodpecker, very cooperative Osprey fish eagle turned up at Rockmarshal. Ospreys are increasingly regular in Louth as they migrate from Scotland and Cumbria to West Africa. It is possible that if a nesting platform were placed strategically around Lurgangreen or Ballymascanlon, they might be tempted to nest.

Osprey at Rockmarshal (Photo Peter Rooney)

Then when we thought the year was over a Grey Phalarope turned up at Balaggan Point.

Grey Phalarope (Photo Gerry O'Neill)

Grey Phalaropes are normally pelagic birds and only rarely come close to the shore so the opportunity to see one close up brought a good crowd.

Grey Phalarope Twitch - Balaggan Point

Then a week later a Spotted Sandpiper, an American vagrant and a very difficult bird to seperate from our Common Sandpiper in the field, turned up at Giles Quay - amazing!

Spotted Sandpiper (Photo Derek Watters)

This county record was found by Frankie Carroll and had to go to Killian Mullarney for confirmation on the id.

Finally to round off the year we had an irruption of Waxwings, probably triggered by a berry failure in Scandanavia bringing the county total for 2008 to 182 species, which is the highest ever recorded as far as we know.

Waxwings at Muirhevnamore, Dundalk (Photo Peter Philips)

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